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Tonight's Wigle release is barrel-aged 'ginever'

When the clan who launched Wigle Whiskey were doing their research into Pittsburgh's illustrious alcohol-related history, they found evidence of gin-making going far back into the 1800s.

"We found some recipes for Holland-style gin made from rye whiskey," says Alex Grelli, a co-owner and distiller and wearer-of-many-hats at the family-run business.

So trying their hands at this new-old spirit was a natural fit. They call it "ginever" -- a twist on the Dutch spelling of genever and a hint at other differences -- and launched last year.

But they also decided to age some of it in oak barrels -- to give it "a warmer body and fuller mouthfeel," Mr. Grelli says. "Something interesting and complex enough to be enjoyed by itself -- smooth and not overwhelming."

At a "release party" tonight, they'll introduce Pittsburghers to this barrel-aged ginever.

Since their sleek space at 2401 Smallman St. holds about 75 people, they've scheduled events at 6 and 8 p.m.

With a limited batch of only 200 bottles, he and his colleagues also are working with local bartenders to invent, or re-invent, cocktails "with some of those funky flavors."

They pronounce it JIN-uhver, by the way, as Americans tend to do; Europeans say "jen-EAV-er." And Wigle is pronounced as if it had two g's (the name taken from an early instigator of the 1790s Whiskey Rebellion).

Wigle's emphasis is on organic, locally sourced grains -- a true Pennsylvania product. And since "there aren't really any malting facilities around here, we couldn't get these [local] grains malted," Mr. Grelli explained.

The ginever does contain some "conventional malted rye and wheat" from a main supplier to distilleries and breweries around the country, but it's a small proportion, making the spirit similar to a "jonge," or new-style Dutch genever.

While their un-aged ginever (at 47 percent alcohol by volume) has a powerful juniper-berry flavor, Wigle distillers wanted to see if barrel-aging would impart "an oak undertone to complement the botanical flavorings without overwhelming them -- a warmer body and fuller mouthfeel."

They've found that barrels made of white ash "give our whiskey a very silky mouthfeel," and are curious to find whether oak does the same thing for gin. I am, too.

Tickets ($25) and more information are available at wiglewhiskey.com.

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